I Am Woman – Episode 20
A Story By Brian Ngoma
“Why Mama?” I asked with tears running down my cheeks.
She avoided eye contact and answered, “I can’t bear you seeing me suffering like this.”
“Get rid of him mama.”
“It’s not that easy Tinashe.,” she sobbed.
“He beats you. He doesn’t even respect you,” I told her.
“I know Tinashe but what’s a woman to do?”
For the first time, I had talked to my mother like a grown up woman. I wasn’t scared what she would say or think about me. I wanted to protect her from Terry but everything was in her hands. The final say was hers.
“Mama,” I called her after a moment of silence.
“Yes Tinashe,” she answered.
“We cannot go back to Lusaka, there’s nothing for us there.”
“Your uncle Richærd and his family.”
“Don’t even mention their names mama,” I grimaced.
A year had passed staying with mama and I never told her what happened at Uncle Richærd’s house. All she knew was that I came to Kabwe with Kasuli to visit but upon finding her in the state I did, I decided to stay and take care of her. I even lied that I wrote uncle Richærd a letter to tell him that we were staying in Kabwe. I told her everything that happened and she was in shock and disappointed. I could see in her eyes that she knew that we had gone through a similar ordeal.
“Then you have to give me some time,” she said.
“Take as much as you need but we are not leaving,” I told her.
She smiled and said, “I am proud of the woman you have become. I didn’t know that you went through all that in the hands of your relatives.”
I felt relieved telling her what happened back in Lusaka. Now that it was out of my way and mama had said she would find a way to deal with Terry, I had to find my way to sort out Kasuli. She was still not talking to me. She would only greet me and talk to me when she needed something from me.
“How long will this continue Suli?” I asked her one Saturday morning.
She looked at me and continued sweeping the yard.
“You have heard me,” I yelled.
“What Tinashe,” she dropped the bloom and touched her wa-ist.
“You not talking to me? When will it stop?”
“I am talking to you, aren’t I?”
“This is not talking Suli. Whatever it is you have against me, you have to forget it. Whether you like it or not, I am your big sister and will always be there to control you whenever I see you are straying. If you think that’s being heartless, then you will see me heartless the rest of your life. Remember, wherever I go, you go with me and I am never letting you out of my sight.”
“I am not angry at you Tina,” she said with a worried face.
“Then why don’t you talk to me anymore?”
She didn’t say a word.
“Listen to me, I am your big and only sister. When I scold you, it doesn’t mean I hate you. I know you know how much I love you. Don’t harbour hate towards me, I am the only one you got.”
“Now you sound like my mom,” she looked away.
“Well young lady, I am your mom. I raised you, remember?”
“I hear you mom,” she rolled her eyes.
I said what I needed to stay to her. There was not much I could do with her but at least I tried and she knew. She started talking to me and seemed happy with me. She would talk about school and her teachers. I finally felt her close again. Thinking about closeness, I no longer felt closer to Marlon. For the first time since he had left, reality hit me that he was far away. I had written him three more letters but not one was ever replied to. Sometimes I would cry myself thinking about him. I would hope and pray that he never found someone to replace me because that would totally tear me up.
I spent an evening writing him the fourth letter. I had vowed that If he didn’t reply to that one too, I would never write him again. Early in the morning, I went to town to post the letter. After posting it, I went back home and found Terry sleeping on the couch. Mama and Kasuli were not home. I had spent some days with him home and I was used to him being around lazing around whenever he didn’t work. I passed him and went to the bedroom and locked the door.
“Tinashe, are you not preparing lunch?” He shouted.
I had dozed off and forgot that it was afternoon.
“Hey, I am talking to you. I am hungry.”
He reminded me of Enoch.
“I am coming,” I said.
“Hurry up, I will be leaving soon.”
I came out of the bedroom and started preparing lunch. Usually, when I was home alone, I would not cook because it was boring eating alone. I would only have light meal.
“Prepare a meal for three, my friend is coming over,” he shouted from the sitting room.
I finished and served the food on the table. His friend came over and they ate together. I sat outside waiting for them to finish. After they finished, they came out and found me.
“Are you sure this is your daughter, man,” Terry’s friend touched his head.
“She’s my wife’s daughter,” Terry looked at away.
“So she’s fair game?”
“Let’s go!” Terry told his friend.
“Is that a yes?”
Terry looked at me and shrugged. I was disgusted with him. He was a shameless person. I was waiting for the day when mama would finally get rid of him. Little did I know that would become a farfetched dream when I discovered something that shuttered my soul.
“2000 is finally approaching, what are your plans?” Mama asked me.
I thought for a while and said, “Aren’t we all dying in 2000?” We all laughed.
“I will be thirteen in 2000,” Kasuli said proudly.
“And you better start acting like a grown up,” mama looked at Kasuli.
Having this conversation with mama and Kasuli reminded me of Diana and Clara. We talked a lot about 2000 and there it was, around the corner. I wondered how they were and if Clara had finally got married to the teacher. I really missed my friends and hoped to see them again.
Every time we seemed to have a great time, Terry would come in and interrupt. It was becoming odd and predictable. He had never changed and I started questioning mama’s promise to get rid of him. The house was hers and I didn’t get why she would not just tell him to move out for good. As usual, he came home drunk and they fought the all night. The following morning would only be filled with empty promises from mama.
“I will tell him to leave today.”
“Mama I am tired of excuses,” I said. “What’s really going on ai?”
She faced down and said, “I am pregnant.”
I was crushed. With the pregnancy, I realized mama would never leave Terry, let alone chase him away. I had to make the ultimate decision for me and Kasuli.
“We have to go back to Lusaka Suli,” I told her before going to bed.
“I don’t want to go back Tina,” she said.
“We are not going back to Uncle Richærd’s.”
“Chongwe,” I sighed.
“Not Chongwe Tina. No.”
“There’s nothing I can do Suli. We have to leave this place. Mama would never leave Terry and we cannot continue bearing witness to violence in this house.”
“But I don’t want to go back.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
Kasuli was super pissed with me. She had not talked to me the wh0le way to Lusaka. She tried to plead with mama to stay but I couldn’t have it. I was really tired of mama. I thought she would do something about the abuse but she didn’t. She had her reasons but I couldn’t take it anymore. The pregnancy was a blow up.
“Maybe he will change after I give him a child,” she said after telling me she was pregnant.
I didn’t say anything to her. I only looked at her and wished she thought like me. We got into Lusaka around twelve in the afternoon. Kasuli still had a straight and pissed off face. I didn’t care. I knew Chongwe was worse but maybe papa’s uncle (our grandfather) had changed because of old age.
“Carry this bag,” I told Kasuli.
“I am tired. Carry them yourself. After all you are the one who wanted to come here. You made me leave school and my friends.”
“Young woman, don’t talk to me like that,” I pointed at her.
“Or what Tinashe,” she yelled.
She was causing a scene.
Be calm, I told myself.
“Suli, please cooperate with me. Carry these bags please.”
“I don’t want Tinashe. I said I don’t want!” She shouted.
I was not having it anymore. I was still angry at mama and there she was, making me even more upset. I slapped her on the face.
She looked at me and said, “Tina you have slapped me.” She looked at me with fear.
I had never raised a hand on Suli before. I understood why she looked at me with terror in her eyes.
“I am sorry Suli,” I stepped forward to her.
She stepped backwards.
“Let’s talk about this. Sit down.”
Still not saying anything and looking at me blankly, she ran away. The streets were busy with cars and she was running to the busiest road. I turned around and grabbed the bags to ran to her. Nor sooner had I carried the suitcase, than I heard a loud bang.
(Lets meet on Monday. Have a great Sunday!)
To be continued
⬅️ PREVIOUS episode